In Mark 14, we read of two people who cared deeply for Jesus and His Body. We see how they sought to honor the Body of Christ and how Jesus responded. One used an alabaster vial of perfume and the other used a sword – and both the perfume and the sword were brought out to show the person’s love and loyalty for Jesus. But only one act was eternally blessed, while the other act was destructive and faced the Lord’s stern rebuke.
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Mark 14:-9): Mary anointed the head of Jesus with very costly perfume. And in John’s account of the same event, we see that she also anointed Jesus’s feet with the perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. This perfume was very expensive, costing over a year’s salary. So she clearly “counted the cost” before pouring it extravagantly on the Body of Christ. Even Jesus’s disciples said that she “wasted” it, but Jesus said the exact opposite. He praised her in the highest terms, saying that the story of her act of worship that would accompany the good news of Jesus everywhere!
Peter (Mark 14:47): When Jesus is arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter whips out his sword to defend Jesus and chops off the ear of one of the high priest’s soldiers. Peter probably expected to be commended by Jesus. But instead, Jesus heals the soldier’s ear and rebukes Peter (Matthew 26:52-54).
Applying this to our lives today:
I see that there are two responses by Christians in defending the body of Christ (the church). There are restrictions on churches meeting in person in many parts of the world, and we typically see two kinds of responses by Christians. One approach is to submit to the authorities (Romans 13:1). The other is to urge the church to meet physically so as to not forsake the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25).
Rather than debate the pros and cons of these two choices, I am more compelled by the SPIRIT of Mary and Peter that is demonstrated in Mark 14. No matter what choice we make (to meet physically or not as a church), we all still have a different choice that we make: Will our efforts for the Body of Christ be like the fragrance like Mary or the militance of Peter.
Let us beware the spirit of Peter. In our zeal to protect the physical health of our communities, we can chop people heads off! Or, on the other hand, we can chop people’s heads off in our zeal to protect our individual rights or for the church to congregate in person. But this is misplaced zeal, if are fooled into fighting the wrong battle. And meanwhile, the devil is thrilled. When our spirit is wrong, it will only serve the purposes of the devil who thrives on accusing other children of God (Revelation 12:11).
Let us instead have the spirit of Mary. She did not worry about what the others around her thought. She brought out her most prized possessions and anointed Jesus’s feet. Our prized possessions can so often be our pride, our ego, the way that seems so right to us, etc. Mary was limited and only did “what she could” at that particular point, but Jesus saw her spirit and blessed it for all eternity! And even though Jesus’s disciples scolded her, the commendation of Jesus was everything to her.
So let us Christians who are passionate about the Body of Christ reach for our costly alabaster vials and not for our swords - even as we seek to express our deep loyalty to Christ and His Body the church. In all our efforts for Christ and His body, may we carry the sweet aroma of Christ, and seek to offer our bodies most of all as a living, sweet-smelling sacrifice. And may we put away all our swords – in our words, in our thoughts, and even in our actions and reactions to those around us and those in authority.